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Illinois moving forward with high-speed rail project from O'Hare to Chicago and beyond

Written by
Clayton Guse
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A high-speed rail project that would connect O'Hare to downtown Chicago, Rockford, Champaign and beyond made a big step this week.

The Illinois Senate passed a resolution on Sunday urging Governor Bruce Rauner and IDOT to prepare "an investment grade ridership analysis" for such a high-speed rail project. If acted upon, the resolution could bring about a study capable of attracting federal and private investments that would help bring the Midwest's rail system into the 21st century. It also calls upon Congress to pony up $2.5 billion for the project.

The prospect of a high-speed rail coming to Illinois has long been talked about, but never executed. The Obama Administration has allocated more than $11 billion since 2009 to develop faster passenger trains nationwide, but the program has been widely considered a failure.

The Midwest High Speed Rail Association (MHSRA) has been active in trying to bring the 220 mph trains to Illinois. Here's their vision of an Illinois high-speed rail network:

The Chicago-based association played a big role in a recent $1 billion federal investment to speed up Amtrak trains in Illinois. The group is hoping to have a similar success with this high-speed rail project. If all goes swimmingly, the new project would rebuild Metra's tracks in the city in order to handle both Metra and high-speed trains. The new study proposed by the Illinois Senate resolution would determine how plausible that would be. 

"What we should be doing is what a lot of countries have already done," said MHSRA executive director Richard Harnish. "We should be building a completely new track that brings high-speed trains to Illinois."

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